5/4/10

Writing Tip Tuesday: Effect vs Affect

Affect and effect are two words that get mixed up a lot.

First, let's define the two words from Dictionary.com.

Affect is usually a verb, meaning:
  • To act on; produce an effect or change in: Cold weather affected the crops.

  • To impress the mind or move the feelings of: The music affected him deeply.

  • To attack or infect, as a disease: Rheumatic fever can affect the heart.



Effect is usually a noun, meaning:
  • Something that is produced by an agency or cause; result; consequence: Exposure to the sun had the effect of toughening his skin.

  • The power to produce results; efficacy; force; validity; influence: His protest had no effect.

  • A scientific law, hypothesis, or phenomenon: the photovoltaic effect.

  • Advantage; avail: used her words to great effect in influencing the jury.

  • The condition of being in full force or execution: a new regulation that goes into effect tomorrow.

  • Something that produces a specific impression or supports a general design or intention: The lighting effects emphasized the harsh atmosphere of the drama.

  • A particular impression: large windows that gave an effect of spaciousness.

  • Production of a desired impression: spent lavishly on dinner just for effect.

Even with the definitions, sometimes it's hard to pick. Here are a few rules:

1. Use "affect" as a verb when you're talking about influence.
  • Eating too many bon bons can affect your weight.

  • Running into a werewolf was really affecting her mood.

2. Use the "effect" if you're talking about results or to describe something that was caused or brought about.
  • The effect of eating an entire pound of bon bons was immediate and uncomfortable.

  • I cannot effect change in my life without a huge bundle of cash.

3. Use "effect" whenever it is preceded by any of these words: a/an, and, any, into, no, the, take(n) (with or without an adverb).
  • Meeting a unicorn always had a calming effect on her.

  • The magic wand had an effect on the frog.

  • It's all about cause and effect.

  • The werewolf had no effect on her mood at all.

  • The effect of the vampire bite was instantaneous.

Here is a quiz. See if you can get them all right.

2 comments:

brendajean said...

Your writing tip will no doubt effect my writing, but I wish it would affect my weight :) Right?

Heather Feather said...

Your tips are great and will definitely help me with my writing but I still hate trying to figure out which one to use. I tend to favor the word 'effect' and am pretty sure I am unintentionally biased that way. :)